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This is the second of two legends related to Kur, a Sumerian dragon god who ruled in the underworld.

In this telling, Kur’s foe is the hero-god Ninurta. Ninurta had his origins as a god of agriculture, specifically barley. As Sumerian life changed, with small farming villages becoming powerful city-states, Ninurta’s role also became more martial. Eventually he was something like Hercules in Greek myth — a hot-tempered god who ran around having adventures while the other gods minded their celestial business.

Ninurta had a marvelous weapon, a mace called Sharur, which could talk and change its shape to that of a winged lion. As the story begins, Ninurta is feeling down because he hasn’t had a good fight lately. Sharur suggests that he take on Kur, who after all is evil and a force for destruction. After extensive flattery by Sharur, Ninurta takes on this challenge.

At in the previous version, Ninurta travels to Kur’s domain and is met with a shower of falling rocks. The battle goes poorly, and he is forced to flee — possibly by flying on Sharur’s back. After Sharur exhorts and encourages him, Ninurta returns to the fray. This time he is attacked with boulders, but he summons all his courage and might. At the end of the battle, Kur lies dead. Sharur extols his master’s great achievement. But…

Kur’s celestial business was to keep the abyssal sea separated from the fertile land. Without him, there is no one to hold back the tides. The sea begins to rise, slowly but surely, until salt water threatens to cover all the land. No fresh water can reach the crops. Soon people are desperately hungry.

When Ninurta learns what is happening, he knows he has to make this right. Returning to the battlefield, he discovers that salt water is ceaselessly flowing from the place where Kur’s body lies. Acting quickly, Ninurta gathers up all the boulders he and Kur hurled at each other during their battle. With these he builds a mighty wall. Ninurta’s stone dam diverts the salt water back into the sea. This allows the Tigris River to run clear. With fresh water restored, the people can once again grow crops. They praise Ninurta as their savior.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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